Paris restaurant Arpege, best known for giving vegetables the starring role on its menu, has been named the best dining destination in Europe in a restaurant ranking headed by a man who’s been called the “king of food bloggers”—and whose claim to fame includes having discovered the group Run-DMC.
In the 2017 edition of Opinionated About Dining’s Top 100+ European Restaurants list, chef Alain Passard’s restaurant was given the top spot for the second year in a row by the culinary elite who contribute to the ranking compiled by influential food blogger Steve Plotnicki.
Rounding out the top three spots are Schauenstein Schloss in Furstenau, Switzerland and Faviken, in Jarpen, Sweden.
Chef Passard is best known among gastronomes for having upended the world of haute cuisine when he took red meat off his menu in 2001 at the height of the mad cow disease crisis in Europe. The move was all the more surprising given that Passard was known as a maitre rotisseur.
Over the last 16 years, humble vegetables have been given the Michelin-starred treatment: radishes are used to create a creamy risotto or “radishotto,” while beetroot is used to create a vegetarian tartare. “Lasagna” is made with sweet potatoes, and merguez sausage is made with Argan oil and vegetables from his gardens outside Paris.
“Passard added an intellectual component to cooking that didn’t exist before,” Plotnicki said in an interview before the awards ceremony in Paris, last Monday.
Plotnicki, a former music executive, proceeds to rhyme off a series of Passard’s most inventive dishes with its accompanying year, much like a discography of the chef’s work.
There’s Passard’s iconic caramelized tomato dessert with 12 spices, circa 1980s, which Plotnicki credits as the “gateway” of trompe l’oeil dishes, including legendary Spanish chef Ferran Adria’s famous spherical olives.
There’s also his broken mustard sauce, which deconstructed the quintessentially French condiment on the dinner plate.
“He created an approach to cooking that was a variation on minimalism and deconstruction… cooking methods that were copied by other chefs.”
In fact, Plotnicki points out that the OAD Top 100+ Europe list this year features nine restaurants run by chefs who have trained in Passard’s kitchen.
His culinary philosophy would also be adopted by his chef confrere Alain Ducasse and Denmark’s René Redzepi, both of whom recently shifted their gastronomic focus to give more focus on vegetables.
Overall, France tops the ranking’s leader board with 34 restaurants, followed by Spain (31) and Italy (27).
Meanwhile, galloping gourmands can be forgiven for being confused about which restaurant reigns supreme given the volume of restaurant rankings that are published.
For his part, Plotnicki claims that the OAD list yields more consistent results compared to its closest rival, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, because of a single reviewing panel and a judging system that gives more weight to its more experienced diners.
Last year’s OAD list was based on 160,000 reviews contributed by 4,500 people registered for the survey.
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants is based on 26 voting panels representing 26 geographical regions.
Among some of the top OAD reviewers is Andy Hayler, who has bragging rights of having dined at every three Michelin-starred restaurant in the world in 2014, and globetrotting diner Takefumi Hamada in Tokyo.
In a previous life, Plotnicki was a music executive whose biggest musical legacy was discovering Run-DMC through his label Profile Records.
Here are the top 10 restaurants in OAD’s Top 100+ European Restaurants:
1. L’Arpege, Paris
2. Schauenstein Schloss, Furstenau, Switzerland
3. Faviken, Jarpen, Sweden
4. Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain
5. De Librije, Zwolle, Netherlands
6. Etxebarri, Axpe, Spain
7. Kadeau Bornholm, Bornholm, Denmark
8. Restaurant Quique, Denia, Spain
9. Le Calandre, Rubano, Italy
10. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
Best New Restaurant: Lume by chef Luigi Taglienti, Milan
Highest New Entry: Aponiente, chef Angel Leon, Spain
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